Wednesday's seventh round of qualifiers for UEFA Euro 2008 may be light on top-of-the-table clashes, with just Group 7 pace-setters Croatia and Russia due to meet, but there is sure to be plenty to rouse neutrals and hardened fans alike. Indeed, given that major powers such as Spain and England find themselves in desperate need of victory to stay in sight of the leaders, the players can ill afford to start dreaming of their summer holidays.

Any lack of focus at this late stage in the season looks almost certain to be punished, and the continent's hopefuls would do well to consider what happened to Italy on Saturday. The world champions escaped with a slender 2-1 win over the Faroe Islands, a stark reminder that no opponent can be taken for granted at this level.

In Group A, where Portugal and Serbia are excused duties, frontrunners Poland will be hoping to extend their five-point lead, although they have already contested one match more than their rivals. Leo Beenhakker's men travel to Armenia keen to streak further ahead, mindful of a punishing sequence of games later down the line. Elsewhere in the same pool, Finland still hold slim hopes of going through, unlike Wednesday's visitors Belgium, whose dreams evaporated once and for all when they lost 2-1 to Portugal on Saturday.

Scots bid to stay in touch
Last year's FIFA World Cup™ finalists Italy and France have taken control of Group B, but neither can afford to be complacent. For their part, Les Bleus look set to rely on youth again as they host Georgia in Auxerre, and Raymond Domenech's charges ought to be confident after beating the same team 3-0 earlier in the campaign.

Italy could only manage a 1-1 draw last time they faced Lithuania, but they will be eager to improve on that outcome when they travel to the Baltic state. Lastly, while Ukraine sit out the day's action, Scotland realistically need to collect all three points in the Faroe Islands to stay in the hunt for a qualification berth.

In Group C, reigning champions Greece will fancy their chances of moving further ahead at the top when they welcome bottom side Moldova. The Greeks go into the game fresh from overcoming Hungary 2-0 and with striker Theofanis Gekas in sparkling form. The situation is very similar in Group D too, where Germany can race five points clear of the Czech Republic if they see off visitors Slovakia.

After impressing in Friday's 1-1 friendly stalemate with Brazil, a match that saw David Beckham return to the fold, England appear to be high on confidence again as they gear up to face Estonia. Their hosts have suffered six defeats in as many games, have yet to score and have conceded 11 times, and England coach Steve McClaren knows his players can afford nothing less than victory to stay on the heels of the three teams leading the way in Group E.

Duelling strikers
Two of those three lock horns in Croatia, and, with the table sure to remain tight right until the final day, the home side dare not slip up against the reinvigorated Russians. In what already appears destined to be a thrilling encounter, all eyes will be on the duel between two strikers at the top of their game. For Russia, Sevilla FC's Aleksander Kerzhakov is in excellent form after hitting a hat-trick against Andorra, while Croatia's Eduardo Da Silva has been registering goal after goal for the leaders. The two teams are currently unbeaten, but both will be glancing over their shoulders at Israel, who travel to Andorra.

The situation is equally tight in Group F, where Sweden await UEFA's judgement after their game in Denmark was called off following an attack on the referee by a Danish 'supporter'. With that inquiry ongoing, the Swedes can move closer to the promised land when they entertain Iceland, while Spain journey to Liechtenstein. It will be the Spaniards' second consecutive fixture on foreign soil after Saturday's 2-0 success in Latvia, a match they had to take something from.

In Group G, Romania and Bulgaria meet with Slovenia and Belarus respectively, desperate not to drop points as they vie for the top two positions with the Netherlands, who will not be in competitive action.

Finally, in the realm of friendlies, there will be much interest in Brazil's final warm-up outing before the Copa America. The Auriverde take on Turkey in what will also be Ronaldinho and Kaka's last appearance this season. Meanwhile, Argentina will be in Spain, where they meet an Algerian team back at the forefront of the African game.

Programme of qualifiers for UEFA EURO 2008

Wednesday 6 June
Group A:

Kazakhstan - Azerbaijan
Finland - Belgium
Armenia - Poland

Group B:
Lithuania - Italy
France - Georgia
Faroe Islands - Scotland

Group C:
Norway - Hungary
Greece - Moldova
Bosnia-Herzegovina - Malta

Group D:
Germany - Slovakia

Group E:
Estonia - England
Croatia - Russia
Andorra - Israel

Group F:
Sweden - Iceland
Liechtenstein - Spain
Latvia - Denmark

Groupe G:
Romania - Slovenia
Luxembourg - Albania
Bulgaria - Belarus

Friendly matches

Tuesday 5 June
Japan - Colombia (Kirin Cup final)
Algeria - Argentina
Brazil - Turkey
Mexico - Paraguay
Kuwait - Portugal
Jamaica - Chile

Wednesday 6 June
Thailand - Netherlands
Ecuador - Peru